International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 20, 2011
Purpose: To open in our hearts the treasure house of prayer
Scripture Text: Matthew 6:5-15
Matthew 6:5-15 (NRSV)
(5)“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. (6)But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (7)“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. (8)Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
(9)“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.(10)Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.(11)Give us this day our daily bread. (12)And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (13)And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. (14)For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; (15)but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Today's lesson is about prayer and part of our text includes what is often referred to as “The Lord's Prayer.” The Lord’s Prayer is repeated, recited, and prayed by many congregations each Sunday. How can we continue to use this great prayer in our services and not be guilty of what Jesus is saying hypocrites do? First, we need check why we use it and how it is used. As a congregation do we think that it somehow makes us more holy?
When we pray it as a congregation, do we personally use more gusto, to emphasize our own holiness or righteousness? Treating the prayer as rote or reciting it can lead to the criticism Jesus is referring to. Anything we do to impress someone else qualifies us to be called a hypocrite. There is a very fine line on displaying our piety, and remaining righteous. Our piety and our righteousness should never be on display as a way of proving our relationship with God. When we do that we are guilty of being “self-righteous,” and like most things that involve “self,” we have lost our way.
Getting recognized for our inspiring prayers, and our seemingly righteous attitude gives us an earthly reward, but not necessarily God's approval. Praying in secret and prayers to our Father, which are intended for His ears only is the way Jesus teaches us to pray.
When praying, Jesus says it is not about flowery words or old cliché phrases, or babble, it is about recognizing our relationship with the Father, and affirming our needs and concerns, that He is well aware of, as well as our praise, thanksgiving and repentance.
When we pray the way we address God shows something about our relationship with God. If we are His child we should address him as “father” but not “My Father” but rather “Our Father.” “Our Father,” shows an understanding of the community we are part of. God is not just “My God,” but rather He is God to everyone that is a child of God.
Just because we address God as “Our Father,” we should never diminish God's holiness, but rather recognize that calling God holy requires us to seek a higher level of holiness for ourselves. God's name should be hallowed, and we should be seeking that same hallowed title for ourselves. Realizing being made in His image, beckons us to reflect that image in our lives.
Since we assume God's will is accomplished in heaven, we are to work toward His will being accomplished on earth, and that begins with us. God has revealed His will to us by proclaiming it through the scriptures. God also allows things outside of His will to happen. A couple of God's proclamations include:
- John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. and
- Jeremiah 32:27“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?”
Verse 11 offers some real hope and promise for us for our physical needs, but more importantly He wants to supply our spiritual needs. Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life and in the Old Testament the Bread of Presence represents the coming Messiah. I think our prayer should be “give us this day Jesus' presence in our lives.
We are encouraged to pray about keeping us from the evil one, Jesus himself was tempted, we should expect to be tempted also but we should always be aware that Jesus is there, in the person of Emmanuel, (God with us) when the evil one comes.
When we address God as “Our Father” that sense of community should standout for us and we should realize our relationship with others is important to Jesus, and forgiveness is the most god like things we can do. It is not, “forgive them and I will forgive you,” but rather if you cannot forgive them you are not a child of mine.